Please, reason before looking on the answer or my arguments so you don't become biased.

I'm studying for a test and there is this passage (content taken from British Council study material):

Identity crime is a generic term used to describe offences in which someone uses a fabricated or fictitious identity, a manipulated identity (the alteration of one’s own identity) or a stolen identity to commit a crime. The third of these, identity theft, knows no geographical boundaries and is on the increase as more people conduct business and social interactions over the internet.

There is this statement:

There are three main kinds of identity theft

that should be classified as either, true, false or not given.

The correct answer as per the answer sheet is


although I think it is

Not given since it enumerates 3 identity crimes but never say whether there are more or not. Note that it enumerates 3 identity crimes, not 3 identity thefts.

Real question: Is the answer sheet correct?

  • 1
    Please don't spoiler hide the answers. We need to see them. It's not going to ruin anyone's enjoyment. I did edit to show the hidden text, but it was rolled back.
    – James K
    Jul 22 '17 at 19:50
  • 1
    @JamesK yes, I rolled it back because I think that it can bias the reader's reasoning. Please, let me know if there is any guidelines forbidding it and I'll happily remove the spoiler hide.
    – luizfzs
    Jul 22 '17 at 19:53
  • 4
    I don't think the occluded text can prejudice the answers. The real question here is what are meant by the terms "true" and "false" in the context of the test question; and that is one of the reasons for questions of this kind. I don't think it belongs in a test of English comprehension, but in a test of logic, but that's neither here nor there. Yes, the answer sheet is correct. Jul 22 '17 at 21:16
  • 2
    I'm showing the answers again. The problem is that the obvious answer is "false" since as PE Dant says, you can't draw the conclusion, therefore it should be false. But since "not given" is also a possible answer, the "false" answer must mean "provably false". Hiding the answers isn't helping. Please don't rollback without discussion.
    – James K
    Jul 22 '17 at 22:03
  • 2
    I'll bet you are surprised by the amount of discussion generated by your seemingly simple question! There is certainly merit in your answer of "not given". It shows that you are really thinking, and that speaks to your intelligence: well done! I want to be sure that you understand both why that choice should not have been offered, and also why the answer sheet provides false as the "correct" answer. Don't worry about it: you'll encounter many poorly-written tests as you learn the language. Keep your objective in mind: it's more important to pass the test than it is to be "right"! Jul 22 '17 at 22:39

I believe you are right. We know that identity crime can be categorised into three types. We know that identity theft is on the rise. We can infer that the internet makes identity theft easier, but no information is given on how many types of identity theft there are.

To add a simplified example:

Apples are fruit with red or green skin. The red apples are sweet.

  • There are two types of apple. (True, in the context of the question apples are categorised into red ones and green ones. You need to answer based on the text, not on general knowledge.)
  • There are two types of pear (Not given. the question doesn't mention pears at all)
  • There are two types of red apple (Not given. Red apples may be subdivided into types, you can't draw a conclusion from this example any more than you can draw a conclusion about the types of pear.)
  • Some apples are yellow (False, the phrasing of the first sentence implies an exhaustive categorization, again the answer must be based on the text, not general knowledge.)

It's a poor question in other ways. The answer depends only on you noting only the words "crime" and "theft", you hardly need to understand the text. You indicate that this is "preparation material" which is often poorly proofread. Don't worry about it and move on.

  • 5
    See my comment. Your answer is incorrect. Since "no conclusion can be drawn" the correct answer should be "not given" So the examiner got the answer wrong (common enough mistake but still not great) The other problem is that the question is designed to trick you by confusing "crime" with "theft". But if you don't know the meanings of "crime" and "theft" you are actually less likely to confuse them. So it's not really testing English skills, just trying to trick the reader. The british council material is usually pretty good, but this question isn't.
    – James K
    Jul 22 '17 at 20:59
  • 3
    I have to agree with James, @P.E.Dant. By your own words, no information is provided. If the available answers included only "true" and "false", then "false" would be the more reasonable choice. However, the available answers are "true", "false" and "not given". The one closest to "not provided" is "not given", yes? Jul 22 '17 at 21:39
  • 2
    Ah, I see now. I hadn't read any answers when I wrote mine, and "specious" is not a reference to yours. It is in reference to what I think was one of the intentions of the author of the question—to distract the test-taker with such analysis when the actual question is a straightforward one: can I draw this conclusion from the text, or can I not? If not, then the answer is "false". Jul 22 '17 at 21:52
  • 3
    ...and that is why, in my comment, I noted that the question is more at home in a course on logic than on English. I contend that given only this statement: "The fishwife has a clean apron", it is false to conclude that the hovercraft is full of eels. Jul 22 '17 at 21:57
  • 4
    Really? Unless you can point at something in the text that excludes 3 as the number of main kinds of identity theft (or excludes the presence of eels in the hovercraft) then, no, you should not conclude anything -- not that the statement is a) true and not that the statement is b) false. We aren't given that information . Not given is, well, answer c) not given. Jul 22 '17 at 22:01

I agree with you: the answer key is wrong.

As James K points out, presumably your answer must be based on the text, and not on some other source of information. But going by the text:

It clearly distinguishes "identity crime" from "identity theft". It says that "identity theft" is one of three kinds of "identity crime".

So the first answer, "true", is wrong. The text does not identify three kinds of identity theft. It identifies three kinds of identity crime.

But nowhere does the text say how many kinds of identity theft there are. If it had said, "There are two kinds of identity theft ...", then the correct answer would be "false". There are not three kinds, there are only two.

But the text doesn't say anything like that. It doesn't say how many kinds of identity theft there are. Whether only one, two, three, or ten thousand. So the correct answer is "not given".

Just by the way, not relevant to your question: This is perfectly valid as a reading comprehension question: How many kinds of identity crime does the author identify? But don't suppose that this really tells you anything about identity crime. Other writers may break identity crimes into just two categories, or four, or a hundred. Most of the time, "How many kinds" questions ask the student to repeat the textbook writer's way of organizing information. They are not about the nature of the universe or actual facts.


The line which mentions identity theft is the following:

The third of these, identity theft, knows no geographical boundaries ...

NB It is important to note that the author does not exclude the possibility of there being a fourth type of identity crime (e.g. using another person's identity in order to commit felony), but instead focuses his attention on three types of identity fraud.

The candidate has to decide whether the statement below is an accurate interpretation of the line above.

There are three main kinds of identity theft

According to the text, and only the text matters–not one's personal knowledge or common sense– there are not 3 main types of identity theft. Identity theft is one of three types of identity crime

The answer must therefore be FALSE.

The NCA (National Crime Agency) defines identity crime as

Identity crime will commonly take the form of identity theft, the creation of counterfeit documents, or the misuse of genuine documents. Once a criminal has illicitly created or stolen an identity, they can use this typically to commit fraud and attempt to cross the border undetected.

Some organised criminals will make use of many identities to support their criminal activities. They use false identities to travel undetected and to protect their assets from confiscation. They also use them for criminal activity where proof of identity is required, such as in fraud, financial crimes, people smuggling or illegal working.

So even though identity theft is a common act of identity crime, it is not the only form of identity crime (some criminals will create fake identities, some will forge signatures, etc.) the two terms are therefore not interchangeable.

If the statement had been

Identity theft is reported daily all over the world

although we may safely presume that claim to be realistic and plausible, nowhere in the text is the frequency of the crime reported mentioned. The answer would therefore be NOT GIVEN.

  • 1
    +1 for explaining very clearly how to approach the test question. It might be ambiguous if the context were something other than a test of reading comprehension, but in the context I agree with you that the question is intended to make sure you understand "the third of these".
    – ColleenV
    Jul 23 '17 at 12:15
  • 1
    This answer contains a straightforward inverse error. This argument is valid but has a false premise: (( "There are three types of identity crime described in the passage." and "We are asked how many types of identity crime" therefore "The answer is three" )). This argument has true premises but is invalid: (( "There are three types of identity crime described in the passage." and "We are NOT asked how many types of identity crime" therefore "The answer is NOT three" )). Your answer is equivalent to the latter argument.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jul 23 '17 at 15:16
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    @Mari-LouA: Your comment is equally as wrong as your answer. The text doesn't tell us how identity theft breaks down. There could be three, fewer, or more categories. The statement "There are three main kinds of identity theft" is not supported by the text, so the correct answer cannot be TRUE. The statement "There are NOT three main kinds of identity theft" is also not supported by the text, so the correct answer cannot be FALSE. The fact that you the statement is one word different from a true statement is not evidence for the inverse of the statement.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jul 23 '17 at 16:20
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    @luizfzs this is an IELTS Reading paper test, isn't it? I understand your confusion, and in the real world, you would be able to write and explain why the question being asked is ambiguous, or misleading, or plain stupid. But in the exam you can only choose one answer, and maybe this question belongs to that small group where an examiner has in mind a specific answer because he is testing a specific understanding. If it's any comfort, I am convinced that FALSE is the intended answer :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 23 '17 at 17:55
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    @BenVoigt You're completely ignoring the context. This is a reading comprehension test and the questions are intended to make you choose the wrong answer if you don't really understand the passage. There are three identity crimes covered in the passage : fabricated identities, manipulated identities, and stolen identities. The third of these is identity theft. The test here is whether you understand English well enough to distinguish "identity crime" from "identity theft". For these sorts of questions, you have to think about why they're asking instead of what is technically correct.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 23 '17 at 21:41

I agree with you, as well as the other answerers.

The passage implies that there are 3 types of identity crime. It doesn't imply there are 3 types of identity theft anywhere. It's not given whether there are 3 types of identity theft. Ignore it and move on, the question is poorly written.

Identity crime is a generic term used to describe offences in which someone uses a fabricated or fictitious identity, a manipulated identity (the alteration of one’s own identity) or a stolen identity to commit a crime. The third of these, identity theft, knows no geographical boundaries and is on the increase as more people conduct business and social interactions over the internet.

Adding my 2 cents, there's also a chance that the answer sheet writer got confused and thought it referred to theft instead of crime. I would advise you to stop using this particular answer sheet, since there can be more errors like the one you mentioned.

P.S. This question shows that you actually tried to find the answer yourself first (i.e. evaluate yourself a.k.a. true self-evaluation), and, when you looked at the answer on the answer sheet, got rightfully suspicious, as you tried to understand why the answer is as such, instead of just relying on an answer sheet. Kudos to you.

  • Thank you for the compliment, @Erik. Yes, I'll surely move on. When I posted the question I really wanted to know if I was missing something but the discussion here proved that I wasn't and in fact the problem is with the question.
    – luizfzs
    Jul 23 '17 at 17:53
  • I don't think the test writer got confused. The point of the question might have been to see if the reader could discern identity crime from identity theft. Also you should consider the intent of "a third of these".
    – user3169
    Jul 23 '17 at 22:51
  • @user3169 The test writer? I think I corrected that.
    – EKons
    Jul 24 '17 at 12:16
  • I meant the intent of the person who wrote the passage, likely the same person who decided what the "correct" answer should be.
    – user3169
    Jul 24 '17 at 16:10
  • @user3169 Well, that's a completely different issue.
    – EKons
    Jul 24 '17 at 16:14

Having designed written tests before I feel for the instructor. It is almost impossible to close every contextual loophole.

From the perspective of the test, the answer sheet is correct. You need to think of it this way:

True if three kinds of identify theft were listed. This is the incorrect answer because identy theft was mentioned only once.

False if identity theft were mentioned but not mentioned three times. This is the correct answer because "identity theft" was mentioned.

Not Given if identity theft were not mentioned at all. This is the incorrect answer because identity theft was mentioned.

Remember, I'm providing analysis based on the intent of the instructor, who is trying to express an idea only within the context of the paragraph provided. @luizfzs's answer is understandable because the paragraph does not explicitly state there are no more than one kind of identity theft.

Why is the question acceptable? Because the intent is to see if the reader is confusing "identity crime" with "identity theft." The question is written to maximize that confusion for the purpose of testing clarity of observation.

  • 3
    I don't follow your reasoning on why "not given" is incorrect. The fact that identity theft is mentioned doesn't imply that we are given all information about it. If the question was "There 200 cases of identity theft per day in the UK (T/F/NG)" The fact that identity theft is mentioned doesn't stop the answer being "not given". Can you clarify?
    – James K
    Jul 22 '17 at 21:09
  • 1
    They could easily have said there are are "Only one type of identity theft" or words to that effect. I don't feel for the instructor- they should have chosen a better question- it is not rocket science. The whole thing reads like it was written by three lazy writers. Jul 23 '17 at 4:39
  • 2
    @James K, you can argue semantics with the instructor who provided the test until you're blue in the face. He/She won't be impressed. Your failure to understand the nature of the test would justify a failing grade. Had the question read, "There are three kinds of identity fraud" the answer would have been "not given" because "identity fraud" had, indeed, not been given in the sample paragraph. I'm sorry that neither you nor the OP can use the answers provided here to attack the instructor's decision, but there it is. The OP's answer to the test was wrong. Jul 23 '17 at 5:22
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    "Correct from the perspective of the test" means nothing. Either the answer in the solution sheet is correct or it is wrong. In this case the instructor is wrong, and instead of admitting it you are strenuously defending them and trying to shift the blame on the student for 'not thinking like the instructor' and not compensating for the instructor being incapable to follow the rules of logical reasoning. I hope I never have to take tests under people like you. Jul 23 '17 at 11:19
  • 1
    @FedericoPoloni: Unfortunately these types of problems with standardized exams are very real. True story -- when taking the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, I opted not to take the one in my specialty but a different one within my field, specifically because I knew that within my specialty, I had learned advanced methods the exam authors were unaware of (they were developed after the publication date of the recommended reference materials), while for the one I selected, I would be using the same approach as the authors and target audience: the one taught to undergraduates.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jul 23 '17 at 21:56

The test question is a very simple one, and the answer should not be complicated by specious linguistic analysis, which will only distract you from the important lesson embodied in the test question. The question is very well posed to evoke exactly such analysis.

Your task is to comprehend the text; the purpose of the test is to determine whether you have comprehended it after careful reading. This is not a "trick" question, but it is designed to test your comprehension.

The text describes three kinds of identity crime, one of which is identity theft. Nowhere does it tell us how many types of identity theft there are. If the statement in question were:

There are three main kinds of identity crime.

...then the correct answer would be "true".

The most important thing to understand is that your task is to reason only from the provided text. Because we know nothing about how many types of identity theft there are, the conclusion:

There are three main kinds of identity theft.

...is false.

  • It lists three kinds of Identity crime. It explicitly says identity theft is the third type. It doesn't list any types of identity theft.
    – James K
    Jul 22 '17 at 20:54
  • 2
    Therefore the information is "not given".
    – James K
    Jul 22 '17 at 20:59
  • 1
    @user3169 You're saying that for "I know there are three main kinds of identity theft, but the text doesn't specify", "not given" is the wrong answer, for "I know there are four main kinds of identity theft, but the text doesn't specify", "not given" is the right answer, and for "I don't know how many kinds of identity theft there are, and the text doesn't specify", "not given" is again the wrong answer? You then say to answer based on the quotation as written? I don't understand, the way I'm interpreting your comment doesn't make sense, but perhaps I'm reading it wrong and you can clarify.
    – hvd
    Jul 22 '17 at 22:33
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    @hvd According to the quotation, there are three kinds of identity crimes (not more). And of those three, one of them is identity theft (the other two are something else). Seems pretty "given" to me.
    – user3169
    Jul 22 '17 at 22:56
  • 1
    @hvd There are three differently colored apples. One of them is red. Then, is the statement "There are three red apples." true, false or not given? I could check at the grocery store, I suppose, but that would be outside the scope of the example.
    – user3169
    Jul 22 '17 at 23:08

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